During the final seconds before the 2019 trade deadline, Josh Rojas was traded along with Corbin Martin, Seth Beer and J.B. Bukauskas from the Astros organization to the Arizona Diamondbacks, for Zack Greinke. It was the biggest trade of the day, and returned Josh Rojas to the state were he was born, and the team which he grew up supporting.
This intrigued me: I believe it was the very first time I had heard of a D-backs player that actually grew up as a fan of them. This is what the team has been waiting for. truly home-grown talent: a kid that remembers watching games at Chase Field and rooting for the D-backs as a child, now joining the franchise. Rojas made his Major League and Diamondbacks debut on August 18th in Colorado. During the recent home-stand, we had a chance to chat to Rojas, and ask about his path from D-backs fan to D-backs player,
ed: Did you grow up playing baseball, or did you transition from another sport to baseball?
Josh Rojas: I grew up playing baseball. That was the first sport my Dad introduced me to when I was a kid. When I could first start walking, is when I started playing!
ed: You’re from Glendale, Arizona. Did you play with NYS (National Youth Sports) at all?
Josh Rojas: No, I was born in Glendale, but I grew up in Litchfield Park so I played little league in Litchfield.
ed: Any shout-out for a local coach that impacted you, whether in little league or all the way up to High School?
Joshua Rojas: My Dad was my coach all while growing up, so he is my biggest mentor in the game. Definitely need to give credit to my Dad for teaching me the skills I needed to move along in this game. He was the head coach of our club ball team since I was 9, and that group of kids stayed together all the way to high school.
ed: You bat left, but you throw right, how did that come about exactly?
Josh Rojas: Not really sure, I know my Dad said he saw me starting to swing right-handed, but wanted me to bat left-handed. But all growing up that’s how it worked, I hit everything left-handed. Everything I do is right0handed except for hitting.
ed: So you grew up a Diamondbacks fan?
Josh Rojas: Yes I did.
ed: What is your 1st memory of Diamondbacks fandom?
Josh Rojas: Coming to a game with my grandpas. Sitting way up high watching the game.
ed: How often were you coming to games?
Josh Rojas: I probably came to one or two games a year. I was always busy with the stuff we had going on. Once you get to club ball you are pretty much locked up all year round.
ed: Who was your favorite D-backs player growing up?
Josh Rojas: Tony Womack was definitely one of my favorites. He is a great player. Scrappy player. Made a lot of contact, always running the bases hard. I like that in players.
ed: You stole a lot of bases in the minors, is that something that is a part of your game plan?
Josh Rojas: I’m not really super fast, I have average speed at best. But I use a lot of things to help me get bases, such as scouting reports, I have to use all of those things to my advantage because I don’t have the Jarrod Dyson speed.
ed: You don’t feel like you’re up there with him (Dyson)?
Josh Rojas: No. I mean he has had some years under his belt. He probably saves his speed for when he needs it. It’s higher than mine, I know it.
ed: You are a native of Arizona, you played your first major-league game at Chase Field last Thursday? What was it like to see your image on the scoreboard and your name in the lineup here?
Josh Rojas: It’s hard to process that during the game. On my days off, I have had a better chance to think about where I am at, what I have done, and being in the big leagues in my home town. When I am in the game I don’t have time to look at the board, or realize what uniform I am in or what team we are playing. It’s more about what stuff we are facing and focusing on how to get a win.
ed: What advice or words of encouragement did you receive from your family and everyone who came out to the game to see you?
Josh Rojas: Just everybody trying to basically comfort me. The biggest thing is when someone gets up to the big leagues is nerves, and you don’t want the nerves to get the best of you. That’s definitely what everyone was saying: “It’s the same game. Just play your game.” I think it helped. I didn’t feel the nerves and gittery-ness that I thought I was going to feel. It was more excitement than anything.
ed: On your acquisition - in what we are calling on the Snakepit, “The Rojas trade” - Torey Lovullo said, “He looks like he is a tremendous player and a great addition to this organization...our scouts nailed it with him.” What comes to mind when you hear that? Also, what type of energy does that give a player when their new manager says something like that publicly?
Josh Rojas: It’s really comforting. When I came to this organization and even when I got called to the big leagues it’s kind of your time to make another good first impression. When you get drafted you are trying to make good first impressions, and then you get comfortable in that system.
ed: You credit the Astros organization with helping you learn more about the science of hitting. Can you give us an example of what that looks like to us arm-chair batters?
Josh Rojas: It’s just breaking down hitting into little pieces and focusing on your drills, and the mechanics of your swing. You want to focus more on the drills that keep you right instead of your actual swing, for me personally. It’s already hard enough to hit Major League pitching with a perfect swing. So if you are second-guessing your swing it’s going to be that much harder to hit.
Josh Rojas: I always said it, kind of half-joking but it’s a pretty serious statement, coming up through the minor leagues this year, in Double-A and Triple-A: You’ve got to compete with what you’ve got. So that’s kind of my way of leaving behind what happened in the cage, or what did not feel right. You’ve got to compete with what you’ve got. You now have to focus on what pitches you may be getting, what location he might be trying to attack. If you go up there thinking about your swing, you will be that much later on fastballs or sliders.
ed: You were drafted in 2017 by the Astros, traded to the D-backs in the Greinke trade, played eight games in Reno, then you get the call up. How are you handing how quickly this is happening?
Josh Rojas: It’s really fast: but you don’t really think about it. You get traded - you’ve got to pack up all your stuff. I’m in Reno, but did not really get a chance to settle in and was living out of a suit case. With only a month left, it’s not really worth getting an apartment, so I was just in hotels. Eight days later, I’m gone again. I just have a little carry-on suitcase!
ed: Was there any warning that you were getting called up?
Josh Rojas: No, it’s “You’re getting called up and your flight is in 5 hours.” I was just focused on getting stuff together, getting to places on time. There is not much time to sit back and think, wow - I’m a big leaguer.
ed: Do you think that there is a Diamondbacks-Dodgers rivalry?
Josh Rojas: Yeah, 100%. You see it every time the D-backs-Dodgers play. You see how much the game means to everybody. I know from being a fan all these years that there’s a D-backs-Dodgers rivalry between the fans as well. When the fans are behaving that way, and think that rivalry is alive, it’s shown on the field.
ed: You played a lot more infield than outfield in the minors, yet you look extremely comfortable and natural out there since your call up. What do you attribute the ease of your transition to? How much of a factor has it been working with Dave McKay?
Josh Rojas: It’s been huge. I worked a lot of outfield this year with my coaches, just working on getting comfortable out there. My first couple of games in the outfield, I will call it a zoo. Just diving for balls I could not get to, kinda taking bad routes. Even my first day at home here, Souza was giving me some tips on how to get better during BP, shagging fly-balls, and in game environments. McKay has been awesome. I work with him everyday. He gives me little tips everyday to work on. That’s all I ask for, is to get better out there. I don’t want to be a liability anywhere. I want the manager to know when he puts me out there, that spot is locked up.
ed: You had a big power breakout in the minors this year, fewer fly balls than the previous two seasons but more fly balls were going over the wall. Did you make any adjustments or changes that might have contributed to this surge in power?
Josh Rojas: I just worked on driving the ball to all parts of the field. That helped me because my only power last year was to the pull side. Now, I am learning to drive the ball. Now, I’m not just a “one side of the field” type of guy.
ed: Any off-season hobbies or talents?
Josh Rojas: I like to hunt and fish in the off season, in Arizona. I dove hunt, fish in local lakes and rivers.
ed: Any superstitions?
Josh Rojas: Uh, I have a lot of superstitions. Yeah, quite a bit that I go through in a game. For sure. I keep those under wraps!
ed: You said it was very similar, the fundamentals in the Astros organization and the D-backs. I know you were only in Reno for 8 days, but did you notice any differences in the systems?
Josh Rojas: There are some things that are major differences: the Astros are really analytical. There were no differences where I was like, “Ohm you need this or you’re missing this.” I think the D-backs have everything going the right way so far.
ed: Let’s say it’s two o clock in the morning, after a night out... Where are you stopping for food?
Josh Rojas: I probably hit Canes. Maybe Mexican food, some burritos, Filibertos, a California burrito.
ed: So if it’s between Filibertos and Juliobertos which one you gonna chose?
Josh Rojas: (Before I could finish asking) Going Filibertos!
[A massive thanks to Josh Rojas for spending his time with us, and as always we appreciate the staff in the D-backs communications department.]